Guest column: Why shouldn’t recreational anglers have a say in red snapper quotas? _lowres

Bryan Carter

I occasionally enjoy snapper fishing in a recreational capacity, though, most of the time, I am an inshore redfish guide.

Red snapper are delicious table fare and oftentimes abundant and easily accessible. Quite frankly, most of my red snapper excursions revolve around targeting other species on my days off when I am not guiding, with a red snapper stop being almost an afterthought.

While my feelings toward red snapper may seem lackluster, I can assure you, my inshore clients and I believe red snapper to be one of the most important species to recreational anglers in the Gulf.

The recent upholding of Amendment 40, or sector separation, in U.S. District Court necessitates that recreational harvest quotas of red snapper be separated into private anglers and federally licensed for-hire guides, with each subsector being charged with finding management solutions that work for them.

Federally licensed for-hire guides have an advisory panel that serves the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, but recreational anglers do not.

Convening an advisory panel of recreational anglers to serve the Gulf Council would ensure that recreational anglers play a role in determining best management practices for red snapper under sector separation, and it only makes sense that the council convenes the advisory panel so a huge portion of the fishery’s voice is heard.

As natural resource management issues go, red snapper management is a pre-eminent example of how natural resource management issues have played out for the last 50 years.

The interplay between commercial and recreational interests, and, moreover, the interplay between the various divisions within fishing communities and stakeholder groups, has unfolded many times in countless scenarios, oftentimes with each stakeholder group talking over or past one another. This has led to management gridlock and a lot of blame-gaming, and this is reflected nowhere more than at the Gulf Council.

In other words, red snapper management is not a unique natural resource management problem. It does, however, present an opportunity for the Gulf Council to unite and set an example for future natural resource management disputes.

A major step toward setting an example and breaking through the us-versus-them rhetoric for other natural resource management opportunities and toward limiting some of the council’s vitriolic rhetoric is to convene a private recreational advisory panel and allow recreational voices to the table.

Controversy surrounds the Gulf Council and its creation and implementation of red snapper regulations. Even confounding this more are attempts by outside influences attempting to shift management of the species from the Magnuson-Stevens Act to the states. My goal, however, is not to focus on the debate between federal and state allocation of management power. That’s not the main story here.

With the courts upholding sector separation, I care deeply how the rules and regulations are determined in light of this. In order to get the full management benefits of sector separation, the Gulf Council must convene a private recreational advisory panel.

Without convening a panel of recreational anglers, the council is sending a message that red snapper management wishes to stay in the dark ages of closed-door resource management, which would deny the input of the largest group of stakeholders involved. This point of contention is noteworthy not just for anglers but any local, national or international citizen who wishes for a better personal and professional relationship with natural resources. This is an opportunity to say that regardless of how messy the process may get, we can’t deny input from any stakeholder if we are truly seeking the best possible solution.

Louisiana anglers have an opportunity to encourage other Gulf states to request that recreational anglers have their place among other shareholders at the council table to help manage this resource. And the council will convene the advisory panel only if recreational anglers ask it to.

Contact the Gulf Council at council@gulfcouncil.org and demand the council to convene the private recreational advisory panel, or sign our petition asking it to. It is mission critical if we are to find meaningful management solutions and break the council’s gridlock.

Captain Bryan Carter has been a fly fishing guide in southeast Louisiana since 2003. He is studying to complete a master’s degree at the University of New Orleans.